The 2013 NCAA tournament is rapidly approaching, with Selection Sunday less than two weeks away. Once the field is set, discussion can truly begin in earnest on which teams are going to make a run and shock the world and which will fade early and be upset.
However, there seem to be a few programs looking probable to make the 68-team tourney that no one seems to be giving enough credit to.
We’re here to point out these under-the-radar squads and make sure you are prepared when filling out your brackets this March. Let’s take a look at three schools you won’t want to ignore in the Big Dance.
Saint Louis Billikens
At 23-5, the Billikens are the biggest surprise in college basketball.
This feisty Atlantic 10 team is 23-5 with two games left in the 2012-13 campaign, good enough to be ranked No. 16 in the AP poll. Don’t think this is a fluke for one second, as St. Louis is the real deal.
Led by coach Jim Crews, the Billikens have proven their worth against some solid teams, including a sweep of then-No. 9 and 15 Butler and home wins against then-No. 24 VCU and No. 20 New Mexico.
The players are using the tragic passing of coach Rick Majerus to rally around, hoping that they can honor their former leader in victory.
Junior Dwayne Evans is the star to watch, as he averages 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists through 28 games in the 2012-13 campaign.
If the Billikens can nab a middle-of-the-pack seeding, they should be able to capitalize and at least advance to the Sweet 16.
The Terps are squarely on the bubble, but you’d be hard pressed to find a coach that wants to face this team if they make the field.
7’1” center Alex Len is a legitimate threat to be selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft, and has been absolutely dominant at times. He has a wide array of low post moves that just aren’t seen from big men often these days.
Unfortunately, the rest of the roster leaves a bit to be desired and the guard play of Maryland is subpar at best.
Should the Terps find a way to heat up from three (shooting just 33.8 percent on the season) and feed Len in the painted area, they are going to be a serious contender to win a few games in the early stages of March Madness.
At 20-9, UMD has two huge regular-season games remaining and the ACC tourney to prove they deserve to dance. Should they get there, anything can happen
It’s not often a team occupying the No. 1 spot in the AP poll is classified as “underrated,” but that’s exactly what the Zags are.
The Bulldogs have lost just two games during the 2012-13 campaign, one being on a wild last-second play. They possess arguably the best frontcourt in all of college basketball, featuring NBA draft prospect Kelly Olynyk and senior Elias Harris.
People will slap the “mid-major” label on this program, but it is clearly ready for prime time and should be able to nab a No. 1 seed in the tournament if they win out.
Before you pencil in Gonzaga to falter in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, realize that this squad is ninth in the nation in points scored (78.4 per game) and field-goal percentage (50.5).
Those are two key categories that winners excel in, so don’t be surprised when the Bulldogs make a Final Four push in 2013.